SWP to President Duterte: Please veto all pork insertions in 2019 budget
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019
Social Watch Philippines to President Duterte: Please veto all unconstitutional insertions in 2019 budget
Social Watch Philippines (SWP), a network of a hundred civil society organizations advocating for transparent, efficient, accountable and pro-poor use of public funds, noted that the ball is now in the court of President Rodrigo Duterte to remove the unconstitutional provisions and all forms of pork barrel allocations in the enrolled bill of the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 budget.
“To ensure a pork-free budget this year, we appeal to the President to impose his line-veto power over all the suspected unlawful amendments which were lodged in the 2019 budget bill,” SWP said. SWP also appreciates the statement coming from his spokesperson that the President will scrutinize every provision of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB). “This will erase any and all doubts that pork barrel has made its way into the 2019 budget,” SWP added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III announced on Tuesday that he has signed the enrolled copy of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) but with “strong reservations” due to “unconstitutional provisions” and a P75-billion “internal realignment” worth of programs/projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Senator Panfilo Lacson has also made public statements over House-initiated realignments on Health Facilities Enhancement Program and various other individual legislator amendments such as various new infrastructure projects, farm-to-market roads and other financial assistance to local government units as previously revealed in his office’s scrutiny of the 2019 budget. According to Lacson, many of these re-aligned budget items were not “vetted” by the implementing agencies and therefore raises serious doubts as to the actual use of these funds.
Social Watch Philippines explained that while it is in the power of Congress to formulate revisions to the national budget, these should be accounted for through public disclosure of a list of new or modified programs or projects and duly announced on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate. “The reality, however, is that no House member has come forward to convey the details of his or her revisions formally and on record”, SWP observed.
During the bicameral conference deliberations, Representative Rolando Andaya provided to the media a list of allocations per House member based on the first reading of the 2019 GAB but in lump sum amounts - from a high of P8.4 billion to a low of P408 million per congressman. But legislators have not revealed their amendments in a detailed and formal manner. Senator Lacson posted online his official submission to the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) while Senator Franklin Drilon revealed his proposals before the Senate plenary. “This is the kind of transparency and accountability citizens deserve from the lawmakers”, SWP added.
“But “itemization is very much different from “realignment” of budget items,” SWP insisted. The move by the House leadership raised a constitutional issue as pointed out by some Senators. The House’s post-ratification action may have violated Article VI, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution which explicitly provides that “Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed”. Per House rules, it was stated that when the “Conference Committee Report is submitted for consideration /approval by both Houses, no amendment is allowed”.
Furthermore, the move by the House leadership raised a constitutional issue as pointed out by some Senators. The House’s post-ratification action may have violated Article VI, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution which explicitly provides that “Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed”. Per House rules, it was stated that when the “Conference Committee Report is submitted for consideration /approval by both Houses, no amendment is allowed”.
With few days from the final approval of the 2019 budget, Social Watch Philippines is hopeful that the President will act against pork with conviction once and for all. “We will continue to remain vigilant and call out against potential anomalies in the allocation and spending of the people’s money,” SWP concluded. ###
Social Watch Philippines (SWP) is a network of over a hundred civil society organizations and individuals engaged in research and lobby efforts in holding the government accountable for the fulfillment of national, regional and international commitments to eradicate poverty and carry out social, economic, and gender justice. SWP promotes people-centered sustainable development by proactively monitoring the progress and delivery of social commitments forged by the government and influencing the outcomes of policy decisions through citizen's participation in public finance.
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